Was last season an aberration or was it the norm for the landscape of the Western Conference relative to standings? The Phoenix Suns, who finished with a 46-37 record, earned the 4th seed with their .549 winning percentage. Not exactly a dominating record, but across the conference as a whole this was the norm. The Denver Nuggets topped the conference with 53 wins. I’m not sure if you understand how rare that is.
The Western Conference was officially formed for the 1970-71 NBA season. Prior to that, when the NBA had 14 teams, the league was split into the Eastern and Western Division. With the addition of three franchises for the 1970-71 season – the Portland Trail Blazers, Buffalo Braves, and Cleveland Cavaliers – the league opted to expand to conferences, both of which had two divisions.
Since the creation of the Western Conference 51 seasons ago, the number one seed has won 55 or less a total of six times in 82 game seasons.
Western Conference #1 Seeds 55 and Under Wins
|Oklahoma City Thunder||2010-11||55|
|Los Angeles Lakers||1983-84||54|
|Los Angeles Lakers||1976-77||53|
|Golden State Warriors||1974-75||48|
What happened last season was clearly the exception, not the rule. But don’t tell that to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas.
Per DraftKings Sportsbook, the Denver Nuggets are projected to have the highest win total this season in the Western Conference, doing so with a 54.5 over/under line. In second place? Your Phoenix Suns with 51.5 wins. If you were to take your hard earned money and bet the over or the under on that win total for Phoenix, where would you place it?
According to the most recent Suns Reacts Survey, 91% of voters believe the Suns will hit the over.
Vegas believes that there will once again be parity in the Western Conference, that there will be no dominant team. The conference is a plateau rather than a mountain. I can understand this point of view as the talent in the league has never been deeper. International play has lit a fire of competition that has improved the league, and when you factor in the Steph Curry generation of specialty three-point shooters, the league has never seen so much depth. It truly is a beautiful time to be watching basketball.
But history says that what happened last season is not normal. It isn’t a trend, it’s an aberration.
Returning to the Suns’ 46 wins last season, looking through the lens of their .549 winning percentage, here is where that record falls relative to seeding over the past ten seasons:
- 2022-23: 4th
- 2021-21: 8th
- 2020-22: 8th
- 2019-20: 8th
- 2018-19: 9th
- 2017-18: 10th
- 2016-17: 7th
- 2015-16: 5th
- 2014-15: T-8th
- 2013-14: 10th
The league, not doubt, but Forrest Gump informs some random dude on the side of highway with a yellow shirt, “s*** happens.” Aberrations typically correct themselves on the timeline, and if the Suns are slotted at 51.5 wins, I agree with how the Bright Side community voted in our weekly SB Nation Reacts poll. Pound that over. Change the line to 54.5 wins if you like, as a 55 win season is on the horizon.
I’m using history as my baseline, however, and the history of being a Suns fan doesn’t exactly end with cigars and confetti. To think that a team with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Deandre Ayton could go 51-31 hurts my brain a tad. And my heart. It brings a self-doubt that I have avoided this season. As a Suns fan, it’s always hanging out in the back of my mind like a transient behind a Circle K looking for a light. I’ll negate REO Speedwagon’s advice and I’ll continue to fight this feeling.
51.5 wins? I too am taking the over.